Michigan LUG Members Face Reality-Based Web Query Training
November 5, 2012 Dan Burger
There may be no better example of what a local user group should be than the educational programs run out of the Southeast Michigan iSeries Users Group. Last week, SMiUG and the Western Michigan IBM i User Group rolled up their sleeves and got to work on a project that is bringing together 37 members for a hands-on, learn-by-doing IBM Web Query experience. It will be a month-long, problem-solving exercise with the goal of completing two real-world projects for a pair of companies looking for modern query capabilities that include dashboards, drill-downs, and mobile components including iPhones and iPads. When it’s all over, there will be three dozen IBM i professionals with new skills that will likely be valuable to them and the companies that write their checks.
Project leader Laura Ubelhor, president of SMiUG, is a capable, high-energy IBM i advocate. A year ago, she instigated a similar project that focused on PHP development. She hopes to duplicate the success of that effort and then some.
For the first two weeks, participants receive their Web Query baptism at the hands of Jackie Jansen, the IBM i solutions manager for Information Builders specializing in DB2 Web Query. Jansen knows her way around the IBM i. Prior to joining Info Builders, she worked at IBM for more than 30 years on business intelligence and database assignments. Info Builders’ WebFOCUS is the basis for IBM’s DB2 Web Query. Jansen provided the tutorial for the Michigan Web Query project and arranged for the participants to access an IBM i box belonging to Info Builders.
Most of the individuals have been placed on two-person teams, a few are working solo, and one team consists of five members all from the same company. During the first two weeks, participants are getting introduced to Web Query through Jansen’s tutorial and homework assignments. Weekly webinars are part of the learning environment. The individuals who signed on for this project come from IBM i shops that already use Web Query, but want to learn more; from shops that are considering Web Query implementations; and also include consultants and a recent college graduate.
Teams are initially assigned one of two projects. If they complete the first, they can take on the second if they want.
Both are projects involve the creation of dashboards, drill-downs, and mobile components including iPhones and iPads. A logistics organization–DSN Chemical Transportation, based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada–that uses Web Query provided the requirements for one project. It places an emphasis on mobile devices and other new features of Web Query that haven’t been used. The other project was planned by a credit union–CU Answers, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan–which doesn’t currently own Web Query but is using this project sort of as a proof of concept to determine whether it is a good fit with existing applications. Both companies have employees participating in the project.
“It has drummed up user group excitement, provided a means for LUG members to learn new skills, and provided a means for member organizations to have projects completed,” Ubelhor says. “Jackie [Jansen] was on site for the kick off meeting, will participate in the weekly webinar meetings, and will be on site when the completed projects are presented.”
IBM introduced Web Query at the same time as IBM i 6.1. It requires either version 6.1 or 7.1 of the i operating system and has been enhanced several times since its debut in 2008. It was updated in October as part of IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 5. There are now standard and enterprise editions and pricing is now core-based rather than based on a combination of functions and users, which was more complicated than necessary.
Ubelhor, who along with her husband operates an IBM i consulting company, knows Web Query very well, but she hasn’t familiarized herself with the latest round of enhancements that were announced last month. So, to a degree, she is a learner in this project. She says Web Query is not a difficult thing to learn and if more companies took even a minimal amount of time to learn it they would discover great benefits particularly as it pertains to mobile applications.
“I told the participants they can get as much out of this as they are willing to put into it,” Ubelhor says. “We structured this so it doesn’t require an excessive amount of time.”